In his latest contribution to Page 2, Skip Bayless makes two bold, and somewhat absurd, proclamations in one sentence. “The Trojans, who wield the most difficult to defend offense in NCAA history, would beat Texas by two touchdowns on a neutral field. Maybe three.” (I tacked on the second “sentence” just because it makes his thesis a little more ridiculous.)
Plenty of pundits agree with Bayless, and they’ve been cramming it down your throats, so if you don’t understand what’s so ridiculous about that sentence, don’t feel badly. I’ll break it down for you.
First of all, Southern California’s offense has not earned a place in history, at least not yet. It’s true that the Trojans lead America in several offensive categories, including the two most important: total offense (581.14 ypg) and scoring offense (49 ppg). Quarterback Matt Leinart is the defending Heisman Trophy winner, and halfback Reggie Bush appears to be the heir apparent. The Trojans have won 29 consecutive games, and boast back-to-back Associated Press national championships. So why am I so critical of Bayless’ assessment?
For starters, anyone who gives a football team a definitive historical ranking during the middle of its season is setting himself up for criticism. How long ago was it that Oklahoma was labeled the greatest team in history? Kansas State didn’t agree, to say the least.
But my beef with this statement runs deeper than sheer principles. Simply put, the Trojan offense has yet to be tested against a legitimate defense. Out of SC’s seven opponents in 2005, Oregon ranks highest in total defense, good for 53rd in America. For those keeping score, that ranks the Oregon defense in the top 45% of Division I-A. It gets worse from there. Take a look.
KEY: YA = Yards allowed, YPGA = Yards per game allowed
The popular counterpoint to the above table is to consider that the Trojans had a hand in these terrible defensive rankings. Such a point is valid, so here’s what that same table would look like if statistics from each team’s encounter with USC were discarded.
The statistics do improve. This is not shocking considering USC does lead the nation in total offense. However, these numbers still aren’t very good. Over 43 games played, these teams average over 383 ypg allowed. That number puts this squad right behind Indiana in average total defense. Furthermore, lowly Washington actually improved its defensive numbers by playing the Trojans.
The numbers don’t lie. Battering seven suspect defenses does not warrant comparisons of this unit to the greatest offenses of all time, and it certainly does not justify anyone ranking them at the top of such a list.
Now all of this goes back to Bayless’ ridiculous thesis, and I stated that he made two absurd claims. So let’s get back to the other one. He thinks the Trojans would beat the Longhorns on a neutral field by 14 to 21 points. I wonder what his pick would be on a not-so-neutral field, like say the Rose Bowl, which is just a short distance north from Los Angeles, and therefore almost a home game for Southern California. (Apologies to UCLA fans. I know that referring to the Rose Bowl as the Trojans’ home in any capacity makes your blood boil.)
None of us know how that match-up will turn out, or even if it will occur. However, USC’s margin of victory over its last four games has been a little more than 15. Three of those four wins came against less than stellar competition: Arizona State (3-4), Arizona (1-6) and Washington (1-6). Even if you take Notre Dame out of the picture, the other three victories are still by an average of less than three touchdowns. Therefore, I question the credibility of his three-touchdown prediction for USC over Texas. Get a clue, Skip.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Texas ranks sixth in total defense. That’s a little bit better than Oregon.
ESPN Page 2: Oscar Meyer Winner